Understanding the way people develop throughout their lifespan is critically important for scientists, who deal with psychology and psychiatry. It is also very advisable for those whose professional interest lies in the field of sociological researches. A number of attempts to classify this process have been undertaken, Erikson's developmental theory being one of the most widely known ones. Erikson tends to subdivide human life into very clear stages with quite definite respective conflicts within those stages (Ericson, n.d.). However, his view at the process appears to be too simplified for a number of researchers. One of the most known researchers to criticize this approach was Lev Vygotsky, who emphasized that personal development is a too complex process to be described with such a plain scheme (Vygotsky, n.d.).
Yet, it is important to understand at least the most important stages of development and analyze them from emotional, social, and cognitive perspectives. It is important to start from the very beginning. Prenatal and infant periods of human life will not be addressed in this particular paper, since they are even more complex to describe and more discussions are held about those periods. Instead, in the beginning childhood starting with four years of age will be addressed.
Speaking about this period, first comes the cognitive aspect. Cognitive development is the development of mental capacities and intellectual skills. It is important to understand that even infants are capable of solving problems, using language as well as long time and short time memory. However, in childhood, at the ages after four, children learn to speed up those processes, remember more things at a time, and keep things in their memory for a longer period of time. They also begin learning to think abstractly.
In preschool period, starting with the age of four, it is possible to speak about developing such emotional and social skills as empathy, understanding, and respect to various social rules and social roles.
When speaking about adolescence and the developmental processes of teenagers from cognitive point of view, it is important to underline that this period is, probably, the most intense in this respect. All the processes intensify and speed up. Later, a regular person simply will not have the need to develop so intensely in cognitive respect; however, this really depends on a person. Speaking about emotional and social aspects, it is worthwhile mentioning, that adolescence is characterized with actualization of feelings of romantic and sexual nature, which are supported with physiological development and formation.
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In early adulthood, people continue their cognitive development, in particular abstract thinking skills. From emotional point of view, the person learns to cooperate with other human beings as an individual with equal rights and responsibilities. In such a way, comes the understanding of social responsibility. A person starts and learns to build family relations within his own family and learns to live separately from his/her parents.
Middle adulthood is characterized with a number of crises. People come to realize a number of verities, which, though known before, still come as a surprise being realized in their integrity and absoluteness: the world cares about each individual much less than an egocentric child used to think in the beginning of its emotional and social development. Life is short and not as bright and careless as it seemed to be. A person comes to comprehend death as a phenomenon which now happens to close people, somebody nearby. Cognitive development can hardly be spoken about: in middle adulthood, a person is maintaining the existing cognitive skills, very seldom developing them to new stages.
This leads to regress in late adulthood. A person loses cognitive capabilities, cognitive processes slow down, memory starts to fail, which is furthermore supported by physiological factors. Socially and emotionally, a person comes to the realization of the proximity of death and the end of life, thus becoming more concentrated on the search of life's sense. The person gets to realize the loneliness of each individual in the world and before the face of eternity. A person faces the great choice: either to sink into this loneliness or remain socially involved and engaged in the life of people around, the society.